“The road from appearance to reality is often very hard and long, and many people make only very poor travelers. We must forgive them when they stagger against us as if against a brick wall.” —Franz Kafka

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Chicken bus in the rain


Antigua, Guatemala. Tropical Depression 16 and it's gray buckets of daily rain have pushed my travel wardrobe to the brink even though I packed for the rainy season. All in all, my backpack weighs a mere 22.6 lbs, my carry on bag maybe another 7 or 10 lbs and my purse, stuffed to capacity, perhaps another 3 or 5. That's it. But I brought two light weight, poly, long sleeved pullovers and, thank the gods for them, I am (barely) squeaking by. Yesterday in class I wore four layers, including my raincoat, for the whole session. My desk was just under the roof and right next to the giant roofless courtyard in the center of the school. Naturally, the whole school is open air because it is, after all, the tropics, so the rain was an arm's length away. And this morning? Rain. But today, no matter. I am happy anyway. Even though I only went for three weeks, it's like the first day of summer vacation, we are at a great internet cafe, with a wonderful open air courtyard garden restaurant five feet away, and with the help of M. Lee, I finally managed to access my photos.


Chicken bus, Antigua


This photo was a lucky shot because, blurred as it is, it captures the hellish reality of the "chicken buses". Granted, they are wildly colorful and dedicated to saints, mothers, daughters, and wifes, and protected by numerous dangling religious icons and filled past capacity, with many people in traditional, colorful Mayan dress, and there are chickens and baskets of aromatic, steaming, home-cooked food and shawls and headdresses full of jewelery and hand-woven cloth of many colors bound for the market and streets and you might consider the buses merely picturesque, if only a little dangerous careening around corners. Unfortunately, gangsters shake down the drivers on a regular basis and those who do not, or can not, pay their "protection fee" are murdered. A young guy, 28, was recently shot to death here in Antigua because he didn't have enough money to meet their demands, and the newspaper included a long list of other victims from this year alone. A couple of thugs were arrested but everyone knows nothing has changed. So, if you decide to ride a chicken bus for the fun of it, please do not deny the driver his tip. His life actually depends on it.

more photos to come...

No comments: